State of the Universe Address 2013
While 2012 was an important and eventful year for Entropia Universe, the upcoming year promises to bring even greater opportunities for development of the EU platform and participant growth.
One very exciting milestone that will be reached early in 2013 is Entropia’s ten-year anniversary! The official “gold” version of Project Entropia (the predecessor to Entropia Universe) was released on Jan. 30, 2003, and MindArk will be celebrating the anniversary throughout 2013 with numerous special events and promotions. More details can be found in the 2013 Roadmap section below.
The MindArk team has spent much of December pinpointing the highest priorities and plotting our development roadmap for 2013. Some amazing improvements are coming very soon, and I am confident in stating that the future of Entropia Universe looks brighter than ever!
Before detailing MindArk’s development plans for the new year, I’d like to quickly share the highlights and progress achieved in 2012.
New Participant Experience
As mentioned in the State of the Universe Address 2012, MindArk made a conscious effort in 2012 to improve the overall Entropia Universe user experience, especially for newcomers. Towards that goal, MindArk and the planet partners put a lot of focus on refining the systems and content encountered by new participants during their first few hours in Entropia Universe. These improvements included revamping the Genesis new arrivals area to improve performance and ease the learning curve for newbies. In response to feedback from the community, creature loots were also adjusted by MindArk to dramatically reduce the incidence of ‘No Looters’. On the planet partner side of things, newly designed beginner areas were introduced on Planet Arkadia and Planet Calypso, with the goal of better educating and engaging new participants and helping them gain some early momentum in their Entropia Universe careers.
In conjunction with the the improvements to new participant areas described above, MindArk gradually ramped up its marketing efforts during 2012, resulting in a 50% increase in the number of unique visitors to the EntropiaUniverse.com and planet partner websites. In addition, the redesign and optimization of the Planet Calypso website completed in early autumn helped to significantly improve the conversion rate of website visitors. The results of these marketing efforts are very encouraging indeed. Entropia Universe now has 2.5 times more new active accounts compared to 2011, and overall activity in the universe is increasing steadily. Without doubt, MindArk plans to build on this success by refining and expanding its marketing efforts during 2013, first by increasing the current Google banner campaigns, and later branching out to additional advertising networks. Finally, an exciting new Entropia Universe promotional video is being developed in conjunction with Arkadia Studios, to be released early in the new year.
While there certainly was a big focus on the new player experience in 2012, there were also tons of other enhancements and improvements introduced for existing participants, many of which were given priority based on feedback received through support cases and on community forums. Some of the highlights of those improvements include:
- New and improved crafting interface
- Instance system - major improvements and expansion (beacons/dungeons)
- Improved creature loot balancing
- Mission system enhancements & rebalancing
- Mindforce improvements and new effects
- Dozens of critical bugfixes and user interface optimizations
MindArk’s development team spent a large part of the second half of 2012 building the foundations to allow other types of client software to connect to Entropia Universe. The first of those new clients, Virtual Tycoon, was released in December and allows participants to connect to Entropia Universe through their Android powered smartphone. An iOS version Virtual Tycoon compatible with iPhone and iPad will be released in the very near future. More information about Virtual Tycoon can be found in this announcement. The effort invested in this project will pay future dividends as well, as it allows for much faster development to make Entropia Universe available on other client platforms such as tablets, additional mobile devices, along with various web-based interfaces.
Another project that has kept the MindArk team quite busy in the latter half of 2012 focuses on improving avatar appearance and the avatar creation interface. Originally planned for release at the end of 2012, completion of this project has required somewhat more time than expected, and is now scheduled to be implemented early in 2013. The good news is that this allows MindArk and the planet partners to put the finishing touches of the new system, so your avatars will be looking better than ever!
Entropia’s 10 Year Anniversary
As mentioned earlier, Entropia will turn 10 years old on January 30, 2013, and MindArk will celebrate this historic milestone with some wonderful universe-wide events beginning on the anniversary date and continuing throughout 2013. As a token of thanks for the support we have received from our amazing community over the years, special anniversary edition items will be introduced in loots and offered as event prizes. These items will have enhanced stats and can be identified by the TEN suffix in the item name (Tenth Entropia New year).
Also in celebration of ten years of Entropia, there will be a major estate announced for auction at the end of January, with a completely new management/revenue model. More details will be released as the anniversary date approaches.
As another show of thanks, MindArk will focus lots of development time on improving the Entropia Universe experience for current participants and Entropia veterans. Many of the most common requests and wishlist items received from our participants via support cases and community forums will be addressed in the first two version updates of the new year. Issues that will be prioritized include:
- Fixing bugs
- Reducing cost to play / increasing average TT returns
- Lowering the volatility of returns for many activities
- Increasing UL item tiering speed / lowering UL item tiering cost
- Removing the UL armor equipping fee
- Lowering the minimum usable condition of many items
Many other interface improvements and game system upgrades are also planned for the second quarter of 2013 and beyond, including items such as PVP combat, mission system functionality, vehicle system, removing exploits, expanding crafting, interface enhancements, bug fixing, and much more.
Major upgrades will be performed on the Entropia Universe platform infrastructure beginning in January. These upgrades will result in improved server stability and faster development and deployment times for future version updates. While these upgrades will require a few months for full completion, participants can expect better performance, fewer unexpected server outages, and much shorter VU downtimes.
In addition, refinements to the development and release procedures for MindArk and its planet partners will help improve client stability, reduce bugs and other unexpected system behavior, and generally improve the overall Entropia Universe experience.
Many of our more patient participants will be happy to hear that a completely redesigned taming system will be developed in 2013. The new taming system will include many of the features from the pre-CryEngine system, along with many new and exciting features that will expand the utility of tamed creatures. Additionally, one of the upcoming new Entropia Universe planets will make extensive use of the new taming system as a core aspect of the planet’s theme.
In the State of the Universe Address 2012, we mentioned plans for expanding and improving space. Several other projects received higher priority in 2012, resulting in the plans for space development being pushed forward to mid-2013. The early focus will be on addressing several issues that currently allow for practically risk-free travel between planets. Space combat and weapons will also be adjusted to improve hunting space creatures and ship to ship PVP combat. Towards the end of the year, we hope to implement several completely new features to space, perhaps even space mining.
Several new payment provider solutions will be introduced early in 2013, including Paypal and Paypal’s mobile payment service, Zong. MindArk is also researching opportunities for supplemental credit card processing solutions, in light of the recent disuprtions and issues experienced with DIBS.
New starter packs will soon be offered on the Entropia Universe and planet partner websites. These packs are designed to provide new participants with a full range of appropriate starter gear at a reasonable cost, and help them start their Entropia Universe careers off on the right foot.
CLD Estate & Political Systems
Concept design of the Calypso Land Deed estate and political systems is already in full swing. While many of the core concepts are already in place, we believe it would be worthwhile to gain valuable feedback from the community on several proposed aspects of these new systems. Therefore, we will be contacting CLD holders with a survey early in the year to get their input. Once the design plans are finalized, actual development of the estate and political systems is scheduled to begin after the summer. We are very excited about the potential of the political system especially, and look forward to working together with the community to make it something truly amazing and unique in the computer game industry.
All in all, we leave behind a fruitful 2012 and set our sights forward to some very promising opportunities available to continue expanding and improving Entropia Universe in 2013. We sincerely hope that you join us in celebrating ten years of Entropia early next year, and in developing the future of virtual reality in 2013 and beyond.
Warmest holiday regards from all of us at MindArk,
CEO MindArk PE AB